Lindsay Olson

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Golden Rules to Keep a Mentor

Golden Rule

This is a guest post by Ken Jacobs. Follow Ken on Twitter.

As a coach, consultant, trainer, and adjunct college professor, I′m often asked by soon-to-be and new PR professionals for my assistance in their search for internships and jobs.

For the most part, these young professionals are extremely buttoned up, generous with their thank-yous and thorough with their follow-ups.

However, in the past six months, I′ve experienced a number of situations that lead me to believe there may be many younger job seekers who′ve never been trained in the "rules of the road" when it comes to asking PR pros for assistance in their job searches.

First I′ll share these situations, and then a few tips on how you can avoid similar ones.

  • I helped land an interview for an internship for one of my best students at an agency where I know the CEO.  A few weeks later, the student mentioned she hadn′t heard anything from the agency.  I asked what she had said in her follow-up to the firm, and the resulting silence made it clear she had sent neither a thank-you note nor a follow-up email.  She was apparently waiting to hear from them to see if she had landed the internship.  As you can imagine, it wasn′t offered to her.
  • One of my agency clients asked if I had any students who might make a terrific intern.  I had a great one, and encouraged her to contact them.   While she thanked me for making the initial connection, I heard nothing more, so I assumed that the agency declined to interview her.  You can imagine my surprise when I met with them a few weeks later, and learned that they not only had interviewed her, but had offered her an internship.
  • I mentored a young professional on an informal basis, and noticed a pattern that concerned me: I′d hear from her when she had a particular work issue, and I′d offer her advice to the best of my ability.  But there was never any follow-up regarding if that advice worked, let alone a thanks. But when a new problem arose, my phone would ring.

Here are some golden rules that might help newer seekers and "mentees" avoid similar situations:

    Until the End of the World hd

  • Within 24 hours of an interview, respond with a hand-written thank-you note, on the best possible stationery you can afford. If you′re worried that it will take too long for your note to arrive, precede it with a brief follow-up email.
  • When someone puts you in touch with a potential employer, be sure to thank them.  If the contact leads to an interview, let them know, and thank them again.  After your interview, follow-up with an email to share your perspective on the meeting.
  • If you′re being mentored informally, be sure to thank your mentor for their time, counsel and perspective, even if you don′t follow their advice.   Let them know about your successes, and in particular, when their advice has worked. Send an extra thank-you once in a while for good measure.

Please note that I′m not saying all Gen Y job seekers and mentees make these errors.  In fact, I′m currently helping two job seekers who are following all the rules, and then some.  Even after they′ve thanked me profusely at the end of every phone conversation, they send a note, an email, or a Linked-In message, and send me regular updates on their search.   In fact, a few minutes ago I got a LinkedIn message from one of them inquiring if his thank-you note had arrived.

I′d do just about anything to help these two job seekers.  And that′s exactly the way you want your mentors and job search coaches to feel about you.

Ken Jacobs is the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, LLC, which helps organizations grow business and develop staff through its coaching, consulting and training programs.  He can be reached at

Photo credit: Jack Crossen

Write an Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter

Me & My Mac

I'm not a huge fan of cover letters. The "Is a Cover Letter Necessary?" topic is a highly debatable topic between recruiters. Most will tell you cover letters are absolutely necessary, but there are some of us out there who will openly admit that we always look at your resume first. It's true. A cover letter is secondary. If the resume fits the job specs and you didn't send me a cover letter, I could care less. I'll still interview you.

Before you get too excited, I'm not recommending a complete omission of the cover letter. Some companies put a lot weight on deciding who comes in for an interview on the letter itself, so it's better to have one ready. I'm just sayin'.

The type of cover letters I prefer are more like introductory letters embedded in the email. I'm not talking about that cover letter everyone learned about in college. You know the one: traditional, long, full-page 5 paragraph monster filled with boring adjectives that everyone uses to describe themselves. Blah! This introductory email is brief, direct, and cuts to the chase. It tells me everything I need to know to decide if I should open the attachment before moving on to my other emails.

A good introduction includes:

  1. A brief description about why you are contacting the person and how you found him or her.
  2. The position you are interested in exploring (a link is helpful if you found it online somewhere).
  3. Top three reasons you fit the position. Be specific. Add a previous accomplishment that addresses the possible challenges in the position.
  4. A bit of personality.
  5. A closing statement and contact information.

Four Christmases ipod

Scarface movie

Here is a basic introduction letter outline of someone I would be inclined to call.

Hi Lindsay,

I began following you on ____ and I recently came across your current search for a (position title) in (city). (Add link here if you have it).

If the position is still open, I'd like to put my hat in the ring. Even though (industry) is a new field for me, I'm a fit for the position's background criteria.

* 10+ years in corporate communications (in-house at (company) and two agencies: (company) and (company).
* Built out the PR function and brand from the ground up for a major (industry of company).
* Reported directly to the (title of person reported to)

I was the (insert your title here) at (company). But don't let the title fool you: I built the PR program from scratch starting in (year) as the company's first departmental hire. By the time I left in (year), (I accomplished this which meant $$, %, or something significant). I left (company) to (reason for leaving) and ....

I've attached my resume and would like to learn more about the position. Please let me know if you're interested in speaking further. I can be reached at _____.

Best regards,

The accomplishment and the three bullet points should be address some of the requirements or challenges you might face in the position.

Customization and personalization are the keys to writing effective cover letters. While your cover letter may include some of the same material, it needs to be changed for each individual position. If you are an accountant in New York and you're moving to Canada, you'd naturally want to highlight the fact that you're familiar with a Canadian professional tax software package since there are obviously going to be differences in systems from country to country. A job search is a job in itself and requires some extra effort for each position for which you apply. Blanket cover letters reek of laziness and do little to set you apart from your competition, so don't go there with your intro.

Do you think cover letters are always necessary?

Photo credit: Kwerfeldein

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